Soldier Sues U.S. Military Over Extended Service
Published: August 17, 2004
Filed at 6:59 p.m. ET
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A California Army National Guard
sergeant filed a lawsuit on Tuesday asserting that the government
can not prevent reservists from leaving the military when their
enlistment periods end.
The suit against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and
other military officials names the plaintiff only as John Doe. It
says he served with distinction in the Marine Corps and Army for
nine years on active duty and three years as a reservist.
``This lawsuit seeks to stop the forced retention of men
and women who have fulfilled their service obligations,'' said
attorney Michael Sorgen. ``When their period of enlistment ends,
they should be entitled to return to their families.''
``It's not that he's a coward,'' he added. ``He's just had
it up to here.''
The Army has issued ``stop-loss'' orders preventing tens of
thousands of soldiers designated to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan
from leaving the military if their volunteer commitment ends
during their deployment. The Pentagon has relied heavily on
reservists to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.
``The order violates Doe's right to due process and the
terms of his enlistment contract, and is contrary to law,'' the
lawsuit reads. ``The involuntary extension of Doe's military
enlistment constitutes a serious infringement on his liberty
protected by the Constitution.''
The San Francisco-area man, who filed the lawsuit in U.S.
District Court for Northern California, fought during the invasion
of Iraq last year. Married with two young daughters, he is seeking
a release from service when his Army National Guard term ends in
SOME 'NOT OVERJOYED' ABOUT GOING
The suit names the plaintiff's commander as Capt. Kincy Clark,
who heads the 131-person Bravo Company of the First Battalion,
184th Infantry regiment based in Dublin, California. The unit
reported for duty on Monday and is expected to train for several
months before going to Iraq in February or March.
``We have some soldiers who are obviously not overjoyed
about being deployed,'' Clark, who is named as a co-defendant in
the case, told Reuters by telephone. ``I have had to look them in
the eye and say, 'Hey, you are going.'''
He added that reservists know when signing up that ``stop
loss'' or extension of service is a possibility.
Lawyer Sorgen said the extension was a violation because
the U.S. Congress had not declared war or a state or emergency. He
called the suit the first of its kind in recent years, although he
said a Georgia court ruled against a soldier after the first Gulf
War in a 1991 case.
The attorney also said his client was being treated for
post-traumatic stress disorder and had been temporarily excused
from reporting with the rest of his unit this week.
A spokesman for the California National Guard had no
comment. Joanne Swanson, head of the civil division of the U.S.
Attorney's office in San Francisco, said she was aware of the suit
but declined to comment.
The extension of service for U.S. soldiers has also become
an issue in the presidential campaign, with Democrat John Kerry
saying he will end what he calls a ``backdoor draft.''
The ``stop loss'' order means soldiers who otherwise could
leave when their commitments expire will be compelled to remain
until the end of a year-long overseas deployment and up to another
90 days after returning to their home base.
Jump to TO Features for Wednesday August 18, 2004
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